Premier League Team Preview: Bolton Wanderers

Bolton look to be a team on the edge of something. Unfortunately, that 'something' changed from 'European glory' in the first half of the season to 'being quite bad' in the second, and nobody's really very sure which way the needle's going to swing in the 2011/12 season. Here to guide you through the strange world of Trottering (that might be a word!) is Mark Yesilevskiy of Bolton Offside fame.

A highly successful first half to the 2010/2011 season gave Bolton Wanderers fans all of the reason in the world to cheer. Fighting for a place in Europe, making their way through the FA Cup, and playing with a flair that the supporters had only dreamed of seeing from their men in white. It all went downhill very quickly as Jonny Evans' studs created a gash near Stuart Holden's knee that caused ligament damage and a premature end to the quiety brilliant midfielder's season in March.

"Last season we were in the top 8 for the majority of the season prior to the last three-four weeks. I think a huge factor in that was losing Stuart Holden because of what he brought to us in the middle of the park and we didn't have that type of player to replace him when he came out of the team" said manager Owen Coyle after the club's preseason friendly in Houston, TX. Without Holden at center mid and with Mark Davies injury his ankle at about the same time, there was no reliable source of distribution from the middle. This lead to the goal total of the likes of Johan Elmander to dry up and for Bolton to pick up only one of their last available 36 away points. Harsh record, that.

Bolton's home form was nearly impeccable with matches on the road ultimately failing them. We asked the Manager if there were any positions that he would like to get players in this summer to which he emphatically responded with a "Yes, absolutely! Defense, midfield, and up front!" Owen Coyle and chairman Phil Gartside have brought in four players thus far this summer that fit the descriptions of "defense" and "midfield" with Tyrone Mears at right back, Nigel Reo-Coker at defensive center midfield, Darren Pratley as an attacking mid, and Chris Eagles who can play in the center of the park or on the wing.

But with all of those new signings, a number of Reebok regulars have been let go. Ali Al Habsi to Wigan, Johan Elmander to Galatasaray, Danny Ward to Huddersfield, and Matty Taylor to Bolton Lite (West Ham United). Owen Coyle has at least one piece of the summer transfer puzzle left to find and that piece is a striker. The current front line of Kevin Davies, Ivan Klasnic, and Robbie Blake is looking increasingly old and slower every day. Super Kev isn't the out-and-out goal scorer that Bolton so desperately need and had in young Daniel Sturridge last season but is great is at bringing the ball down of flicking it on so that someone else in the side has the opportunity to pounce. Current rumors circulate around Liverpool's David N'Gog as Coyle's target for a cold-blooded striker.

The Wanderers will start the new season on the road to Queens Park Rangers and face a tough stretch right from the off where five of the first seven matches feature the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal, and Chelsea but Bolton will need results in order to break the five game losing streak that ended their season and put them in 14th place. Owen Coyle will have to adjust his tactics and maybe shy away from his beloved 4-4-2 formation a little more to ensure that the mighty Wanderers don't sink back into mediocrity, especially away from the Reebok.

If Owen Coyle does land his striker and Stuart Holden comes back to where he left off, expect Bolton Wanderers FC to once again be a surprise force to be reckoned with. The disbelievers will tell you that with the signings that the Manager has lined up, he is building a quite good Championship side, but the supporters have faith in his abilities and squad selection. Even though he's no longer getting the ball and scoring a goal (outside of training or an indoor charity match), he's Owen, Owen Coyle and he'll lead the Wanderers to (top ten) Premier League glory!

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